Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Darius Garland and Collin Sexton usher in a new era for the Cleveland Cavaliers

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the Cleveland Cavaliers

2018-19 season record

19-63 (14th in the Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

25-57 (14th in the Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Darius Garland (draft)

Kevin Porter Jr. (draft)

Dylan Windler (draft)

John Beilein - head coach

Notable departures

J.R. Smith (waived)

Cameron Payne (free agency)

David Nwaba (free agency)

Channing Frye (retired)

Depth chart

Position 1st 2nd 3rd
PG Collin Sexton Matthew Dellavedova Brandon Knight
SG Darius Garland Jordan Clarkson Kevin Porter Jr.
SF Cedi Osman Dylan Windler Sindarius Thornwell
PF Kevin Love Larry Nance Jr. Jarell Wade
C Tristan Thompson Ante Zizic John Henson

3 key storylines

The status of Kevin Love

What will the Cavaliers do with Kevin Love?

With the re-build in full force, it doesn't make a ton of sense to hold on to the 31-year-old power forward who has four years left on an extension that pays him $28.9 million this season and $120 million over the life of the contract.

Love still has plenty to offer contending teams as a stretch big that can still rebound at an elite level. The biggest issues are concerns about health and that hefty price tag. Love was limited to just 22 games last season with a toe injury and has missed 105 games over the last three seasons. Any team willing to take on that albatross of a contract will surely first want to see Love consistently stay on the floor and produce at an All-Star or near All-Star level.

There's a world in which Love comes out hot and looks like the high volume, high ceiling All-Star he was back with the Minnesota Timberwolves. If he does that, it will only drive the price up on what teams will have to offer in exchange for his services. As ready as the Cavaliers are to completely turn the franchise over to its backcourt of the future, the best-case scenario entails running everything through Love early and then riding his resurgence by maximizing his value from the highest-bidding suitor.

Backcourt of the future: Collin Sexton and Darius Garland

For the second straight year, the Cavaliers took a point guard in the lottery when they selected Darius Garland with the No. 5 overall pick to add to a backcourt already featuring Collin Sexton, the No. 8 overall pick in 2018.

The plan in Cleveland is to play both of them, envisioning an Eastern Conference version of the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum pairing that's served as the foundation for years in Portland. Like the Blazers duo, Garland and Sexton don't have great size but can light it up offensively.

After a rough start to his rookie campaign, Sexton ended 2018-19 on a high note as he averaged 20.8 points per game over the final 30 games of the season, including a particularly hot stretch in March in which he strung together 13 straight 20-point games on better than 50-40-90 shooting.

MORE: Ranking all 30 starting backcourts entering the 2019-20 season

Garland, meanwhile, enters as a relative unknown following one year at Vanderbilt in which he played just five games against limited competition. He can fill it up from anywhere and there are some draft experts who pegged Garland as a better prospect than Ja Morant, the explosive guard that went second overall.

Given their youth, managing expectations and playing through growing pains will be crucial in their first year playing together as both Sexton and Garland figure out how to succeed playing alongside another promising talent at the same position.

How will new coach John Beilein adjust from the college game?

The man calling the shots on the sidelines will be longtime college coach John Beilein. Widely regarded as one of the master tacticians in the college game following successful tenures at both Michigan and West Virginia, the 66-year-old Beilein is a proven developer of talent that's won big despite never relying on sheer talent.

Now he has the opportunity to apply those same skill development strengths with a young roster teeming with upside. In addition to Garland and Sexton, 1st-round pick Dylan Windler was considered one of the best shooters in the draft, 19-year-old Kevin Porter Jr. - the 30th pick in the 2019 draft once regarded as a potential top-5 pick prior to a turbulent one-and-done season at USC - could prove to be a diamond in the rough while the team still has high hopes for 24-year-old fan favourite Cedi Osman who is coming off a summer in which he played for Turkey's national team at the FIBA World Cup.

That's at least five malleable young players for Beilein to work his magic on right from the jump.

The track record of college coaches making the jump to the NBA is largely a mixed bag. Brad Stevens, Billy Donovan and Fred Hoiberg are the most recent examples of coaches who enjoyed varying degrees of success. How will he manage the personalities of NBA players as opposed to student-athletes? How will he adjust to the NBA from an X's and O's perspective? He'll have help adjusting in Year 1 from lead assistant and associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, a long-time presence on the NBA sideline with previous head coaching experience in Houston and Memphis.

5 games to watch

Oct. 23 at Orlando Magic

The season opener and the first chance to catch a glimpse of Darius Garland in real NBA action. He did not play in Summer League and hasn't played a competitive game since Nov. 23 of last year. For many NBA fans, especially ones that are not big followers of college basketball, this will be their first exposure to the sweet-shooting bucket getter.

Nov. 25 vs. Brooklyn Nets

It will have been over two years since the last time Kyrie Irving played in Cleveland. The former franchise cornerstone and one of the heroes from the 2016 championship team, Irving has only played in Cleveland once since being traded to the Boston Celtics prior to the start of the 2017-18 season. That came on opening night in a game more remembered for the horrific leg injury to Gordon Hayward. This time Irving will be back as a member of the Nets after signing there as a free agent this summer.

Dec. 20 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Circle this as perhaps the best rookie showdown of the season. While Garland will certainly partake in other showdowns with high profile rookies like Zion Williamson, RJ Barett and De'Andre Hunter, none come with the same bragging rights at stake as the one with Ja Morant who plays the same position. This matchup could be an early-season referendum on who is the best point guard in the rookie class.

Feb. 9 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

The return of Tyronn Lue! The championship-winning former Cavaliers head coach who began last season on the sidelines in Cleveland is now the lead assistant for the LA Clippers. This marks his first game back in Cleveland and he'll surely receive a warm welcome as one of the key figures in the magical run to the 2016 NBA title.

March 26 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

It's a big deal any time LeBron James is back in town. James returned last season for the first time since signing with the Lakers and put up 32 points and 14 rebounds. This time he'll have fellow superstar Anthony Davis along for the ride as Cavs fans get their one in-person look at Hollywood's newest star couple.

The views here do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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